What does Christmas mean to a Buddhist monk? Or should I say, what does Christmas mean to this Buddhist monk?
Everything that is good in the world. That’s what.
I don’t simply mean the obvious – spending time with family and friends, eating mum’s famous Christmas cake, the beach! Yes, you read that correctly…the beach. It’s the only way to spend the holiday season.
So what do I mean by all that is good in the world?
Well, it’s perhaps not all that obvious but if one thinks a little about Christmas I am sure you will agree when I say:
Christmas is a chance to practice generosity.
Now, I love this part of Christmas. It’s probably my favorite bit about the holidays. The most enjoyable part…besides mum’s crissy cake that is!
Back in the day, my grandfather used to distribute presents to all the kids. Now, it’s my dad. Both men had/have a knack for clowning around, and so it’s usually through much laughter that we open our pressies. Kids, of course, are simply a joy to watch as they rip and tear at the wrapping paper with an energy that only a child at Christmas can have.
But of course there is usually someone left disappointed.
If it’s not a gift-wrapped soap basket (I got my mother one of these one year…hey! how am I supposed to know this is a terrible gift? Seriously I had no idea.) or a child that gets the same toy for his birthday and Christmas (I got my six year old nephew a toy he got only months before), someone will always enjoy one present more than another. And therefore, this is also a time for patience.
Christmas is also a time where you are good to those close, and those not so close to us. Everyone you meet, whether it is people in line before you while you do your shopping or the cashier at the checkout, everyone is doing the right thing by each other. More or less Christmas is a time for doing the right thing by all people. One might say that Christmas is a time to practice ethics.
But there is no whip crackin going on here. People are on their best behavior and in a joyous way. There is a little bit of effort required but no stress, really. One might say that people are engaging in these virtuous acts with joyful effort.
But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves for I don’t know about you but after I’m done eating I find it hard to not go off and find a corner to shut my eyes for a moment or ten. And this is usually around the same time that my two nephews want to play tennis, or cricket, or x-box, or something! And guess whose gotta throw a ball, or be an umpire?
Boy do I ever have to refresh and refocus my attention at this time!
All of this, for me, can be enjoyed without it turning into a hedonistic romp only if I see impermanence, and benefit to others my participation can bring. I don’t mean to suggest I am anything special but there is benefit in my family seeing me being both a Buddhist and normal and it’s not forever.
So I do just that. I enjoy spending time with them over Christmas while it lasts.
Now, the more observant of you might notice that there are indeed six ways in which a “perfect” Christmas can be had.
Oh yes, the six perfections can be practiced while having fun with family and friends — who woulda thunk!